Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the PM's files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/358 Security (Article by Duncan Campbell in New Statesman on US National Security Agency (NSA) activities at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 11
PREM19/3108 Parliament ​​​​​​​(Legislative programme) (Part 19) 1989 Oct 2 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2763 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 12) 1989 Jan 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3689 Economic Policy (Public service redundancy terms​​​​​​​) 1981 May 1 1992 Dec 4 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1884 Parliament (Parliamentary Maritime Group: Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Edward du Cann, 8 July 1986) 1985 Apr 25 1986 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1524 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers papers) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 10 1985 Dec 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1272 Immigration (British Nationality Act 1981; British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Amendment Bill) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 19 1984 Apr 10 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 77
PREM19/1188 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space; anti-satellite systems and arms control; ballistic missile defence; the United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 24 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 249
PREM19/837 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 382
PREM19/278 Iraq (Internal situation: relations with Iran; escalation of conflict; impact of Iraq/Iran hostilities on oil market) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/3260 Defence ​​​​​​​(Anglo-French nuclear collaboration)(Part 1) 1979 May 31 1991 Apr 13 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3867 Norway (Visits to the UK by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 10 1992 Nov 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2292 Legal Procedure (Civil Justice Review) 1984 Dec 10 1988 Jun 20 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 36
PREM19/3002 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 5 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2631 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 29 1989 May 18 2016 Dec 30

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